Indianapolis Off The Beaten Path

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    The Lovely Irwin Home and Gardens

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Irwin Gardens in Columbus, Indiana

    Jill & I were "stopped dead in our tracks" when we saw the Irwin home & gardens.

    The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller home was enlarged & remodeled in 1910. At that time, architect Henry Phillips, designed the remodeling & the gardens. The garden is a copy of one in Pompeii, Italy. Miss Elsie Sweeney was the one who found the original garden in the ruins "of the historic city reduced to rubble by Mount Vesuvius." The garden was named Casa degli Innamorati and had belonged to friends of Tiberius' mother, Livia. The garden in Pompeii was much smaller.

    There is an elevated summer house that copied a design from a lakeside structure at theVilla of Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy. There is a long, lowered section between the terrace & summer house with a long pool as its focal point. It was added to extend the local gardens all the way to Pearl Street.

    There's a statue under the center arch that is copied from a fountain in the Vatican gardens in Rome, & across from the Italian wishing well is a metal elephant that is a copy of one which was at the St. Louis World's Fair pavilion.

    Near the house, there are four Greek busts of Diogenes, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (copied from Hadrian's villa).

    Both the house & gardens have copied murals of pompeiian murals. There's a tall brick wall that is rounded in imitation of 16th-century gardens in Mantua, Italy.

    The house has seven windows (for views of the garden), and the stained glass transom windows above the large windows symbolize a day of the week (a symbol of the god for whom the days were named.

    The gardens open on weekends in May and continue to be open until the first hard frost.

    I've been to all those spots in Italy, and I love gardens and mythology, so I was so upset that we were there in April, when I could only look through the wrought iron fencing. These are truly elaborate designs for this marvelous Italian garden

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    Columbus, Indiana Chooses to be Different

    by deecat Written Apr 14, 2005

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    St. Peter's Lutheran Church

    By now you must be asking, "Why spend so much time on Columbus, Indiana when this is an Indianapolis page? Most visitors are touring Indianapolis when they are told not to miss Columbus. Thus, I'm continuing the tradition of capturing those who visit Indiana's Capitol city, encouraging them to see this marvel of a town.

    It is true that Columbus is an unlikely place for architectural masterpieces. Its just a southern Indiana town that is divided by rivers and is surrounded by cornfields.

    It began with the First Christian Church designed by Eliel Saarinen, a Finnish architect as a request from the congregation. Now that was back in 1942, and the church now anchors a city block. But it was the leadership of J. Irwin Miller of Cummins Engine Foundation, who spearheaded this remarkable feat by offering to pay the architectural fees for the design of a public school. He then extended the offer for all public buildings if the architects were selected from a foundation list. I saw, "WOW!" to that.

    Today, there are more than 50 public and private buildings designed by notable architects.

    The photograph is of the St. Peter's Lutheran Church that has a copper-clad roof and a 186-foot steeple!

    There's another famous "spire" in Columbus, (North Christian Church/1964 at 850 Tipton Lane), and it was designed by Eliel Saarinen's son, Eero, and it has a 192-foot spire, the tallest in the city.

    Mill Race Park is built along a flood plain, and it was designed to withstand the flooding. The park has an 84-foot tower and an amphitheater that seats 500. There are walking trails and a covered bridge at the park also. So, they extend the beauty of the town outward.

    I only wish more small cities and towns would have the courage to do the same.

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    Morris-Butler House

    by deecat Written Apr 13, 2005

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    Morris-Butler House

    We were too late to visit the Morris-Butler House, but I was able to take a photo from across the street. This is presented by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. It represents the architecture, history, culture, and society of nineteenth-century Indianapolis. On a guided tour of this elegantly restored home, they say you are able to experience life in the Victorian era.

    There is a formal parlor, dining room, private rooms upstairs, and after your tour, you will know how a well-to-do family and their servants lived. The home has rare furniture, fine art, unique accessories, high-ceilinged rooms that are stenciled, and wallpapered.

    For the people who live it Indianapolis, the home offers entertaining special events such as the "ritual of afternoon tea" or a "sinister historical figure up to no good"...how lucky to be able to participate in such history.
    They also schedule holiday performances, seasonal exhibits, workshops, and lectures.

    Group tours are available at special rates; they will customize group tours for special interests relating to antiques, decorative arts, and Victorian social history.

    Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10-3:30
    February through December

    closed on major holidays and month of January.

    Admission: adults $5.00/senior $4.00/students and children%3.00; free parking

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    City Hall Became a Bed and Breakfast Inn

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Exterior/Interior of Columbus Inn

    As you walk along Fifth Street, you will pass the Old City Hall (1895). Jill and I saw this beautiful old building and could not imagine what it was. We knew that it was Romanesque in style and from the late 1800s (1895), but we just had to find out more about it. So, we walked inside. Behind the counter was a very nice gentleman who told us that the building used to serve the citizens of Columbus for all the civic needs. The town outgrew it and built a beautiful new City Hall.

    Someone purchased it, renovated it, and turned it into Columbus Inn Bed and Breakfast.. The Inn has 34 rooms, including 5 suites, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    They have Senior Citizen Discount, Wireless Hi Speed Internet throughout, Afternoon and High Tea on Monday-Saturday. The regular rooms with a Queen Sleigh Bed and private bath costs about $119.00. The most expensive suite is called The Sparrell Suite, a two-level suite with spacious living area, half bath, and kitchenette on the lower lovel. On the loft level, there is a queen size bed with a full bath and spacious closet for $260.00.

    What a great way to save old historic buildings. This Inn is quite lovely, as you can tell from the photo of the interior of the Lounge. It really is a Bed and Breakfast Inn because they do serve breakfast, included in the night's stay.

    It's in a great location; you are able to walk everywhere in town. It already had parking for the City Hall, so parking is not a problem.

    All in all, I would love to stay at the Columbus Inn, take the guided tour, and spend at least an entire day here.

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    A Showcase For American Architecture

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Eero Saarinen Church, Henry Moore Arch

    Columbus is known all over the architectural world and is ranked 4th in the nation in architectural achievement right after New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

    It's known as the "Athens of the Prairie" because it's the only place in the world where I did actually "look at an Eliel Saarinen church through a Henry Moore arch as I was standing in front of an I.M. Pei library"! (took photo to prove it)

    Thank goodness for J. Irwin Miller, the president of the Cummins Engine Company (USA's leading maker of diesel engines) because he is the one who hired great architects from all over the world to design the buildings in Columbus.

    It was The Christian Church (1942) by Eliel Saarinen (through the arch in the photo) that started the town's fine architectual reputation.
    The Large Arch by Henry Moore looks magnificent in front of the town's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I.M. Pei. I had reason to go into this special building (to ask for directions), and I could see why Pei is so famous.

    Try taking this same photo if you ever have the opportunity to visit Columbus, Indiana. It was a great challenge.

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    Don't Miss Seeing Zionsville, Indiana

    by deecat Written Apr 15, 2005

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    At Home ..in the Village Shop in Zionsville

    On our way back to Chicago, Jill and I stopped on the northwestern fringe of Indianapolis (about 20 minutes away) to see the quaint village of Zionsville. It was pouring down rain, but we did not let that detour us from our last adventure. We put on our raincoats, and away we went!

    There are over fifty shops that line the brick street of Zionsville. These shops offer a variety of shops, most quite "upscale". There are women's shops, antique shops, children's shops, toy shops, and, of course, eateries.

    If you decide to stay over, there are two Bed and Breakfasts here.

    Surrounding the village are preserved historical homes dating back to the 19th Century.

    You are able to tour the village by horse-drawn carriage if you are so inclined. We thought not a good idea in the rain.

    The village is only 8 blocks long so it is an easy place to walk. It's really a reconstructed Colonial Village. We learned while there that in 1903, the inter-urban railway was laid down the center of Main Street thus linking Zionsville with downtown Indianapolis (it was a 30-minute ride). I sometimes wish the "olden days" were now because transportion via train was so much better.

    Jill and I managed to see all the shops, buy chocolate candy, have a cream soda, and eat lunch. Just think what we could have done if it were not raining!

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    The Athenaeum

    by deecat Updated Mar 26, 2006

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    Athenaeum

    Jill and I kept hearing about and seeing in print the term Athenaeum. We had no idea what it was so we went looking. We finally found it and discovered that it is a brooding large structure that was designed by Bernard Vonnegut (grandfather of noted author and Indianapolis native, Kurt Vonnegut). The Athenaeum was originally called Das Deutsche Haus and was once the center of the city's German life.

    It was begun in 1893 and completed in 1898; it is a grand example of German Renaissance Revival architecture. The building has been undergoing restoration work since 1991.

    Today, it houses the Rathskeller (the city's oldest restaurant), a branch of the YMCA (the city's oldest functioning gymnasium), a beer garden with a stylish band shell, and the American Cabaret Theatre.

    The Athenaeum is mentioned in several of Kurt Vonnegut works and is the setting for a scne in the movie, Going All the Way.

    You are able to schedule a tour, but you may also wish to "poke around" on your own after dinner or before a show.

    Hours: Monday-Thursday 9-5

    Friday 9-4
    (Of course, the different establishments within the building have varying schedules.)

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    Small Town Indiana: Architectual Wonder

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Entrance to Columbus Visitor's Center

    Please Click photo because this is a panoramic

    I had heard about columbus, Indiana's wonderful architecture. I told Jill about it, but she did not seem too interested. We were rushed for time, and I was so afraind we would miss Columbus. Thank goodness we did not. Jill now agrees that it is a small town in Indiana with some of the finest architecture ever.

    Start your tour at the Visitors Center; it's quite an architectural feat itself! It's a landmark, combining buildings of 3 eras. It was built in 1864 and renovated most recently by Kevin Roche (Who also did the Post Office).

    Visitors are given the opportunity to watch a video that showcases several of the prominent designers whose buildings stand throughout the city: Kevin Roche, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Harry Weese, and L.M. Pei.

    In the main room of the center, there are exhibits that help the visitor see the city's progress, architectural attractions, and history. There are even scale models of several buildings.
    A real focal point of the Visitors Center building is The Yellow Neon Chandelier hanging in the window facing Franklin Street. And would you believe that there is a 6-foot-tall glass sculpture by famed artist, Dale Chihuly Several of his glass works are on display and are for sale.

    Sign up here for tours (10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, with an additional 2 p.m. Saturday tour and an 11 a.m. tour on Sunday).

    Open: Monday-Saturday 9-5
    March-November, the Center is open
    10-4 on Sundays.
    Pick up a map and other information here. Also, visitors are able to ask questions and receive answers from people "in the know"!

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    Jill's Great-great-great grandfather's Home

    by deecat Written Apr 18, 2005

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    Family Cemetery in Spencer, Indiana

    Please click the photo; it is PANORAMIC

    On our Spencer, Indiana, Adventure, Jill tells the background of why we went to Spencer in the first place:

    "My ancestors left Monroe and Owen counties in Indiana in the 1850s and lived in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas before settling in Oklahoma. However, the house where my great-great-great grandfather, Rev. Leroy Mayfield, had lived is still found near Bloomington. I had an address, so Dee and I went to find the house and the nearby cemetery where Leroy and his family were buried.

    I had tried to contact the present owners, but did not succeed. However, we found the house and photographed it from the car. Next, we traveled down the road to find the family cemetery. I spotted a few headstones through some trees. One of my landmarks for the cemetery was a gravel pit. We found that the gravel pit was still in very active use. We parked carefully out of the way of the trucks and carefully crossed the road to a trailer that stood in front of the cemetery.

    A woman greeted us cheerfully and replied that we were welcome to visit the cemetery. She warned us about a downed tree, but didn't mention the barbed wire. That wire didn't stop either of us.

    I dashed about reading stones and finding familiar names. I photographed a number of the stones. They were not in good condition, but I've seen worse abandoned cemeteries and was delighted to view the home and final resting place of one of my more interesting ancestors.

    Rev. Leroy taught himself to read the Bible and became a Baptist circuit preacher in the 1830s. According to the history books, he was involved in the formation of Indiana University."

    Yet, Jill and Dee continue the adventure...

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    Finding Distant Relatives

    by deecat Updated Apr 18, 2005

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    Squirrel at Jack & Vivias, Spencer

    One of our side trips was to Spencer, Indiana, which proved to be a great adventure. Here, in Jill's words is what happened:

    "I'm a genealogist with Indiana roots, so one day of our trip involved genealogy. I wanted to see a distant relative that I had phoned, written, and e-mailed some years ago. When I contacted her and asked if we could meet at the Spencer, Indiana, genealogy libray, she replied that she and her husband would like to have Dee and me come to lunch at her country home so we could talk about our family research.

    My distant cousin and I re-established our relationship (we are related in two family lines) while Dee toured the lovely house with my cousin's husband and talked gardening. I think we both had a wonderful time.

    I found some information at the Spencer Library's genealogy room that filled in a blank space in my family history. I must add that this small town's genealogy area equals or surpasses those where I volunteer in suburban Chicago. Much of the material printed by the genealogy society is also available on the web under Owen County genealogy.

    Note: I took this photograph at Vivian and Jack's home in Spencer, Indiana, while Jill and I were on our "genealogy adventure.

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    Beautiful Architecture in Unexpected Places

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Bartholomew County Jail

    Jill and I are still smiling about some of the architecture that we saw in Columbus, Indiana. We we walking around with our mouths hanging open in disbelief when we saw a very modern structure with a flag pole in front of i at 543 Second Street.

    We could not figure it out, and we didn't want to walk that far if it was not significant. So, we ask a local woman who laughed and said, "Why, that the county jail!" Oh, my gosh! It's called the Bartholomew County Jail, and it was built in 1990. The woman told us that the county has outgrown it and is contemplating ways to enlarge it without hurting the unique design.

    Other interesting designs are the SBC Switching Station/1978 at Seventh & Franklin Streets that won an AIA Honor Award; Fire Station No. 1/1941, Renovation addition/1990 located at Eleventh & Washington Streets; and Second Street Bridge/1999. This bridge is awesome! It greeted us as we entered this remarkable city.f*

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    Back Roads of Spenser, Indiana

    by deecat Updated Apr 12, 2005

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    Backroads of Spenser, Indiana

    When Jill and I left Indianapolis to go to Bloomington and Spenser, Indiana, I had no idea that it would be such an adventure.

    First of all, within the city limits of Bloomington, we were lost three times trying to following three different sets of instruction. Finally, we left Bloomington and headed toward Jill's ancestor's home (the Mayfield house). Our ultimate goal was to gain permission to go on cemetery property so Jill could take photographs of a family cemetery.
    The people were not home; thus, we took a change, drove to the next road, parked the car along the side of the road with huge gravel trucks speeding by, making their "runs" delivering rock. Then, we walked toward the cemetery.

    There was a trailor between us and the cemetery. Signs were posted about private property and "Beware of the Dog...Sure enough, there was a chained dog just barking away. Should we try it? Just then, a lady came out of the trailer, and I asked her if we could cross the property to get to the cemetery. She said, "Sure, the cemetery is public property". You could have fooled me. There were two barbed-wire fences all around it. Just before we reached the fence, I spied this old car abandoned in this field. A photo opportunity!

    We reached the cemetery, climbed under the fence, and took our pictures. But what an adventure, but I'm happy because I was able to take this photo!

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    Murat Centre

    by deecat Updated Apr 13, 2005

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    Murat Centre

    If you are familiar with the Shriners, you will be interested to know that Indianapolis has the International Headquarters for the Shiners in the form of the unique Murat Centre. This building is an Arabic-styled temple in the Massachusetts Avenue Arts District

    A minaret "snakes" into the sky, and a towering, tiled desert scene is splashed across a portion of the exterior. And you know that in anything to do with the Shiners, this is the standard motif.

    It's the largest of the Shine temples in North America, and the Murat claims the highest number of membrs. It is also the founding spot for the Shrine Circus.

    This temple was built in three phases:

    The plush Theatre was built in 1910.
    The exotic Egyptian Room in 1923.
    The popular Shrine Club in 1969.

    Inside is a theatre that has a new bar that is believed to be the longest one in the state. The Egyptian Rooms are a "must see".

    It has uneven opening times so to get inside, you need to call (317)635-2433 and ask for Lloyd B. Walton, public relations director. They say that he is the man with the best stories about the temple's history as well as many "paranormal happenings" that have gone on at the Murat Centre

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    Ultra-Modern Indoor Commons

    by deecat Updated Apr 14, 2005

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    Kinetic Sculpture called

    Between Third and Fourth streets on Washington and Brown streets, there is an unusual building called The Commons. Jill and I assumed that it was an indoor mall, but we did not see any stores. There were places to eat similar to the usual indoor mall. There was a gigantic open area with playground equipment for small children.

    There was also a very unique art sculpture. We found that the sculpture, which features motion, is called "Chaos I". It is 35 feet tall and weighs 7 tons! This kinetic sculpture is by Jean Tinguely. It seems to be the focal point on the first floor.

    The building, designed by Cesar Pelli, includes a public hall, indoor park and playground, performing arts center, and an Art Gallery with changing exhibits. Columbus Museum of Art and Design is also at The Commons on the second floor. (10-5 Tuesday through Saturday & noon to 4 on Sunday).

    It is strikingly modern; yet, it blends in the the older historic buildings.

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    Indianapolis Museum of Art

    by sambarnett Written Jul 12, 2003

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    IMA

    The collection itself if far from world class, a lot of second rate work by nameless artists who studied under the great masters hanging amongst the occasional Rembrant or Van Gogh, but it is a free museum, it's well laid out, easily manageable and the grounds (150 acres) are amazing. Sometimes the best works of art here are the views over looking the forest and White River, although I really like the small collection of Art Deco interior design items. As you can see the building is undergoing a major rennovation.

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